Monday, December 31, 2007

Planning "Stretch" Study Work

Spiritual leadership requires that we're personally growing in our knowledge of the Word, and the grace of the Lord. We always need to be bringing fresh bread to the people that our Lord puts in our sphere of influence.

I like to plan out a few "big" items to work on through the year. In practice, it seems I wind up working on other things, also, but it helps me get started and tackle "stretching" work that I otherwise wouldn't get to. Just as it's easier to steer a moving car than a parked one, it seems as if God steers me better after I start working in a direction.

My general goal is to read through the Bible in about 40 days, twice this year. [I give complete instructions on how to do this in my book, "Teach the Bible to Change Lives."] I'll do one read-through early in the year, and the second after the school year finishes.

I'll also consistently work through texts that I'm studying to prepare to teach -- right now I'm working on Titus. This is on top of daily devotional reading.

Other 'big' things I'd like to study in 2008 include:
Some hermeneutics training

I'm thinking about how to block these into my calendar around some key events and opportunities. For example, I will probably try to cover the hermeneutics and convenants studies earlier in the year, because then I'll be prepared for summer and fall teaching opportunities. Isaiah would be a good project to tackle in the summer when I'm expecting some bigger blocks of time for reading and review.

Again, I won't beat myself up if I find that in December 2008 I studied other things. I will be disappointed if I didn't tackle some stretch work, however!

What about your plans?

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Caucus is Coming! The Caucus is Coming!

The most common thing I hear about the current slate of Republican candidates is, "I'm not sure who I would vote for." (And some of my Democrat friends have the same concern.)

Many Iowans, I think, fail to appreciate our privilege and responsibility. The field has already been narrowed substantially by the time most state primaries occur -- because of early caucus results in Iowa and the first couple of primaries.

Some general observations:

Whomever is elected president will need to work with a deeply polarized congress. Congress is not about unity. In fact, divisions in congress are a key design element from the Constitution, to guard against dictatorships. But I think it is true that shallow political thinking is more rampant in recent years, amplified by the "instant" media and responsive to the shallow, selfish thinking of many US citizens.

The selection process for President uncovers lots of character issues. That's critical for selecting leaders.

I wish the process would give us more clues about the people that candidates would put into key cabinent and ambassador positions. It's a difficult question to ask, or for the candidates to answer. I'm sure they have their ideas about potential candidates, but pragmatically cannot share them.

All the candidates over-estimate what could be accomplished in the first year. I'm grateful for a government design that works across years, or else we'd be demanding new people in leadership every few months. This creates continuity.

Years of entitlement culture and extraordinary affluence have led to a large fraction of spoiled, surly citizens. Political candidates need their votes, so probably do not feel comfortable speaking plainly about painful solutions to difficult problems.

The economic pronouncements are often described as if the US operates outside the realm of supply and demand, or as if our connection to a global economy can be (and should be) manipulated in a one-sided manner to our favor.

There is a difficult tension that Americans need to explore -- trading off freedom and security. This is an important but practically unspoken issue for citizens today.

There has been much criticism of the current administration's diplomacy and foreign policy. (At least some is reasonable; no state can operate perfectly in the global environment.) But there is also a lot of naive discussion about solutions coming from a one-time face-to-face conversation, irrespective of past history. Dialogue is a process you do with people, not to them. And dialogue is very difficult from positions of political, economic, and particularly military strength.

"Faith talk" that gets good response in Iowa is unlikely to be as successful in all regions of the US.

While there is some range among the candidates, the range among the most-likely-to-be-nominated within a party is pretty small. The Democrats are concentrated around the 35-40 yard line, and the Republicans around the opposite 35-40 yard line. The small number of candidates not clustered here are not going to get the nominations.

And whom to vote for? Gotta pray! I'll have plenty of time if I don't watch the campaign ads or answer the phone.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Parenting Hurts

I had a tough stretch being a dad the other day, and went out to the driveway to attack the ice sheet and "work off" a little frustration and pray.

In high school I would get off the bus, drop my books inside the house, and head out to split wood. Great therapy, year round. My hands were tough enough that I didn't even wear gloves unless it was really cold.

My hands are white-collar soft these days, and though I was wearing gloves, they were beginning to hurt. I kept going because it still felt good to work up the ice, and there was more ice left. Inwardly I was partly praying and partly cursing. I was mad.

When I pulled off the work gloves I broke a large blister on my right palm. Painful. Still hurts two days later, and it's one of those spots where bandaids just don't work right.

I love the words to the hymn, "Before the Throne of God Above," and have been thinking about the line, "My name is graven on His hands, My name is written on His heart." (see Is 49:16)

It would really hurt to engrave a name on the palm of your hand. It would be a sign that relationships are incredibly valuable and love is costly, and that you are willing to bear that cost.

I'm grateful that God gives me the opportunity to be a dad. It hurts sometimes. But it's good.

GodTube Virtual Bible

The folks at (a Christian YouTube alternative) have put out an interesting and useful Virtual Bible.

What's new about this is that for every Bible passage you look up, they display related videos. Sometimes it's a video of a Bible teacher, sometimes it's humorous. It's a pretty slick way to find video content that might complement your teaching.

By the way, I wouldn't recommend this to dialup users. If you need a fast online Bible for low bandwidth environments, try

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas 2007 -- To Do List

Christmas 2007 To Do List

Adore Believe Celebrate Desire Enjoy
Forgive Grow Help Inspire JESUS
Kiss Love Minister Need Obey Pray
Quest Rejoice Sing Thank Understand
Vor Worship X-alt Yearn Zzzzzz

Monday, December 17, 2007

Demographics of Work

It pays to pay attention to trends.

One trend is that more Americans are centering their lives around work. Few would say this, but behavior speaks louder than words.

"Dilbert has a Tattoo -- the Rise of Individuality at Work" describes the microtrends around love and work, place and work, and age and work. Worth reviewing.

Consider how these microtrends match up with the strong desire for relationships, and how that has shifted evangelism from large events to connecting groups.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

That's the Spirit!

"All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us...they can't get away this time."
-- Chesty Puller, USMC

Whom has God put in front, behind, and on either side of you?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

234 Years Ago

The Boston Tea Party occurred 234 years ago on December 16th, a key event leading up to the American Revolution against England.

I'm not sure what it would take to move from our current federal income tax system, based on the sixteenth amendment ("The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.") back to a sales tax or flat tax approach.

Friday, December 14, 2007

We Don't Get a Map

People want to know the future. We want to know all the next steps. We want clarity on all the optional routes to multiple possible destinations. We want to know all the risks. We want to plan.

What God provides is a compass, and a heading, but not a map.

In truth, this is wonderful Grace to us. In truth, we are not constitutionally able to handle what we want -- the map. It would tear us apart to have it.

The compass and heading instructions are what we need, and what we can handle. Our task is obedience to stay on that heading until given further orders.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thinking About Political Gag Gifts

It's the season of the year when people scramble to express their political views (especially here in Iowa), even in gag gifts. Some are outraged over the Hillary nutcrackers, the toilet paper with Dick Cheney's image, and on and on. [I refuse to link, you'll have to search yourself.]

Here's something to think about: we have no fears of poking fun at political leaders in the US. Even saying horrible things about them. It might be in poor taste, in might be a waste of time and money, it might cause some others to wonder about you.

Consider, please, how dangerous this is in many countries in the world. There is no tolerance for this kind of "free speech."

So the next time you scoff at a political gag gift, transform it into thanks -- and pray for our brothers and sisters who do not have these freedoms to abuse.

Insight on Money

"Money will solve the problems that not having money creates." -- John Carlton

Golden Compass?

I know Dads are asking about the Golden Compass movie. Before you say, "It will be OK," check out this information:

Plugged In Online Review
STR post about the movie
STR post about how the filmakers softened the movie to "reel in" more viewers

Excerpt from the STR post about the movie:

"God revealed Himself most fully to us through Jesus who is "the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature," and so we see in this courtroom incident a reflection of how God has been treated by us throughout the centuries.
It doesn't matter how good, just, and true He is; we just keep branding him a conniving, cruel criminal.
This was precisely the goal of author Philip Pullman when he created His Dark Materials, a trilogy that begins with The Golden Compass (whose film version is being released today); and considering humanity's track record, we should not be surprised by this. In short, the plot of the trilogy can be summed up as Genesis 3 from Satan's perspective: God is a fraud and a liar who wants to prevent us from gaining true knowledge and wisdom so that he can maintain tyrannical control over our lives. The task of the protagonists, therefore, is to free all the multiple universes by rebelling against God (the "Authority") and ultimately destroying him:
[The leader of the rebellion] showed me that to rebel was right and just.... He opened my eyes. He showed me things I had never seen, cruelties and horrors all committed in the name of the Authority, all designed to destroy the joys and the truthfulness of life.... He is the greatest commander there ever was. Every detail of his forces is clear in his mind. Imagine the daring of it, to make war on the Creator!"

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Comparing Mormon and Christian Views

I've had several requests for explanations comparing Mormon and Christian theology. Here's a good starter. There are certainly others available online. A key issue in my conversations with LDS members is that they use the same theological terms, but with a different meaning.

I applaud the sincerity and convictions of the Mormons I know. But I believe their sincerity is based on false teaching.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Measuring Drought

It's so dry in Georgia that the Baptists are starting to
baptize by sprinkling; the Methodists are using wet wipes,
the Presbyterians are giving out rain checks, and the
Catholics are praying for the wine to turn back into water.

Now THAT's Dry.

(multiple sources on the Internet)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Insights on Perspective

"It is not true that the world hates America. It is the world's left that hates America. However, because the left dominates the world's news media and because most people, understandably, believe what the news media report, many people, including Americans, believe that the world hates America." -- Dennis Prager

No one is going to reasonably say that the US is perfect, or has always been right in it's dealings with others, or always will be right. But in God's mercy and provision, what nation has done more to correct things, and to help other nations without demanding submission?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Peaceful Vote in Venezuela

We're praising the Lord that the vote on the extended constitutional reforms in Venezuela was peaceful. I remain hopeful that this country will experience massive revival!,2933,314584,00.html

"Teddy Bear" Muhammad Teacher Back in Britain

Gillian Gibbons is back in Britain, after triggering Muslim outrage in the Sudan.,2933,314852,00.html

It's telling that Amnesty International, the Council on Islamic Relationships, and Human Rights Watch have said -- zip -- about this case.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The World Lit Up

I may have posted about this before, but it's a fascinating image composite of the earth viewed at night -- you can very readily make out major cities, interstate road systems, and country borders in many cases.

This is a fun way to pray for the world. Not everthing that is lit up here is living in THE LIGHT!